Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater


The famous view of Fallingwater hidden a bit by vegetation

I have always been a huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s modern architecture that was way ahead of the times. People either loved his work or hated it…and he didn’t care. So long as the owners understood what he had built for them…and he was able to build…he was happy…well sort of…he didn’t look like he was a happy person, but he was definitely a genius. He sketched Fallingwater for owner Edgar Kaufmann in a few hours when Kaufmann started getting anxious about the plans. 

Originally the Kaufmann’s (owners of Kaufmann’s Department store, now part of Macy’s) wanted to view the waterfall from the house. Fallingwater is built over the water. Frank Lloyd Wright, their famous architect wanted them to live the waterfall and to hear it all over the 5,330 square foot house with terraces making up almost half of the square feet. 

He also installed a hatch apparatus so the Kaufmann’s could go down stairs to the river directly from the living room! 

Open the custom designed hatch in the Living Room and take a plunge in the cooling waters of Bear Run

The house is most famous for its cantilevered design and that Bear Run flows beneath the structure. 

Engineers of the day said it wouldn’t work…have you ever heard that before from an Engineer? But after it was built it graced the cover of Time Magazine and has received many awards since its opening in 1939. It took 3 years to build, during the great depression…an odd time to spend so much money. 

Considering this was such a large house by the standards of the day, custom-built and designed in a modern cantilevered design by a famous architect…over a river…just how much do you think it cost…? 

The amount was high for the 1930’s… 

Take a guess… 

How about…including $8,500 architect fees…all furnishings…both the main house and guest house…for a grand total of $155,000! 

Can you believe it? Only $155,000! However, keep in mind the average price of a home for average families was $5,500 at the time. 

Tours run about an hour, with several happening at once. They cover many of Wright’s ecological building philosophies…such as…huge windows to serve as nature’s changing art on the walls…cramped dark hallways and entries to contrast with the open feeling of the rooms…lack of clutter…not allowed in a Wright designed home…lots of outdoor spaces and circular elements to contrast with horizontal design of the rock walls, terraces and seating areas and unique, but not necessarily safe, fireplaces. 

Make sure you have enough time to explore when you visit and wear walking shoes. There is a 1/4 mile walk to the house and back from the visitor’s center…and lots of stairs in the house, up to the guest house and to the lookout for the big photo. All of it is hilly terrain. 

The house is not what I would call kid friendly…steep, stone stairs with no railings…low terrace edges, windows with no screens (the Kaufmann’s added them later)…rock and hard corners everywhere. For that matter I would probably hurt myself… 

Photos are allowed outside after the tour…including the special lookout to get the famous published photo. However, they have let the trees grow and the view is crowded with forest vegetation and people out on the terraces during their tours. 

There is a docent stationed at the lookout that will gladly take your photo perched on a rock in front of this famous structure. 

If you are visiting Pittsburgh don’t miss this fascinating house…and also Kentuck Knob down the road if you have time. It has a sculpture garden and they allow weddings at the site. 

Sandie Parrott

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2 Responses to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

  1. Bev Moss says:

    When I saw Sandie had this on the trip, I was hooked! I’ve been wanting to visit this particular FLW home for decades! Well, maybe several years. Don’t want to sound decrepit.=) Everything about the design, the interior furnishings, down to the last screw, doorknob and light fixture was thought out by FLW and had a purpose and reason behind it. Talk about anal! But absolutely eco-beautiful. Many of us felt we needed to go home and pitch a lot of clutter… The simplicity was awesome.

    • Bev,

      Fallingwater was definitely amazing. I love his architecture and most of his philosophy…don’t like the dark narrow corridors. If I remember correctly, you said you wouldn’t go on the trip unless we visited Fallingwater! Good thing I already had it planned.

      Just a note…I plan and lead Master Gardener Society trips in the Oakland County Michigan area. This was my tenth trip…and we visited Pittsburgh. After I finish this year’s venues…don’t be surprised to see past year fabulous gardens and attractions from previous bus trips around the Midwest…Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, now Pennsylvania and two trips to Canada…


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